Amy Artisan

Family | Travel | Craft | Life | Books

Summer Sleuthing

“When confused, sit back and try to arrange the facts into some kind of order.” – The Ghost of Blackwood Hall

When I was younger, the summer break from school always meant plenty of time for reading. When we lived in California and in Overland Park, KS we were just down the road from the local library. At least once a week I was checking out more books to read. At some point I became hooked on the Nancy Drew mysteries and remember going through the entire collection at the library. Many a summer day was spent in Nancy’s blue roadster zipping around the city and countryside to solve the latest mystery.

“Moxie and a good sense of balance are essential when crawling on a roof.” – The Hidden Staircase

Earlier this year I finished a excellent history of Nancy Drew – Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak. This was a fascinating peek behind the pages at the syndicate that created Nancy Drew (among others) and all the authors that penned stories as Carolyn Keane. Throughout the decades since Nancy first debuted in the 1930s she has always been a gal ahead of her time. Nancy embodied a fiesty spirit of independence that many of us can relate to. It was interesting to read about the evolution of Nancy and how readers responded to the changes in her character – she has withstood the test of time and the original books are still the most popular ones.

“Don’t pass up a great deal on a used sailboat because of a sorry paint job. It could be a real gem.” – The Clue in the Old Album

Even though the books were fun fiction, they were filled with all sorts of “tips” that seem as applicable in the real world today as they were when Nancy first spoke them. A quick search around the web finds lots of Nancy Drew sites – and of course a new movie is set to open with an updated Nancy story. (And that has sparked lots of new articles.)

“Don’t let you troubles get in the way of enjoying a leisurely and delightful lunch.” – The Secret of the Old Clock

In April I had the opportunity to hear Jack Olseker read from his new knit mystery, Cast On, Bets Off at My Sisters Knits. This is the first in a series of knit mysteries that Jack is writing – it is set in the fictious town of Indigan right along Lake Michigan – Harbor Country that is a favorite weekend getaway for me. This was a breezy read – full of the local sights and sounds that make Harbor Country a fun place to visit. While the knit shop sleuths, Max and Lisa, may not encounter all of the “bumps in the road” that a Nancy mystery includes, they do indeed sleuth in a sporty car. The references to the current knit culture were fun to read – when I saw The Yarn Harlot in April, Jack had me pass along a copy of the book to Stephanie because she indeed makes a fun appearance in the book. Jack has quite a writing history – both for the page & for the screen; with this series he is putting the books in yarn shops instead of selling them through traditional bookstores. (P.S. Jack & Kim will be at the Estes Park Wook Market for a book signing on Saturday.)

“It’s good to toast space exploration and fancy gadgets, but it’s more important to raise a glass to the beauty of soft candlelight.” – The Sign of the Twisted Candles

This weekend I will be heading over to Harbor Country for the annual “Kansas Sisters Weekend” with my sister and our friends, Jen & Kristy. While we won’t be in a blue roadster, my blue car will carry us on our adventure. Our summer sleuthing goals for the weekend: finding some fun yarns at Sit & Knit, “investigating” some of the local wineries, searching for “great finds” in the antique shops and who knows what else.

“Don’t let fear mean more to you than your friends.” – The Clue of the Velvet Mask

Jack has given me two copies of his book for a blog contest. How to enter? Between now and Wednesday (June 20) leave a comment about your favorite summer reading memories: Nancy Drew…other mysteries…any other book/series that defined summer reading for you.

“Learning a new craft will make you chatter on incessantly about the art form. Be careful not to bore your less artsy friends. – The Clue of the Leaning Chimney


  1. Oh, how fun. Reliving memories of summer reading. I “heart”ed the Baby-sitter’s club when I was a kid. I must have read every one of them until Junior High.

  2. My mother had a box set of Nancy Drew Mysteries with the original cover illustrations – so very 50’s. I read every one at least twice. To this day, I still love a well-done mystery!

    Enjoy your Harbor Country weekend.

  3. Of corse I read a lot of Nancy Drew mysteries when I grew up. I guess these mysteries lay the foundation for love of mysteries and crime books I read today! But I remember reading all the books about the nurse Cherry Ames by Helen Wells. I got these book by my grandmother at age 10 and the books had belong to my mother. She read the in the 50s and I read the in the 80s. The series are set during WWII. I was totally lost that summer with handsome doctors and brave nurses.

  4. I loved those Nancy Drew books too. Both my school and public library were poorly funded, so they had lots of great old books that were probably published in the 50s. I devoured them anyway! There were also Cherry Ames, Nurse, books that I loved. Thanks for the walk down memory lane!

  5. What a terrific post – as I read it I was thinking it must have taken you forever to put it together. It is wonderful though – taking me back to when I was younger and getting me excited for adventure this summer all at once!! I am definitely going to check out that book . . . even if I don’t win it in the contest. 🙂

    I too was addicted to Nancy Drew books – I remember I owned quite a few and checked all the rest ou tot the library. I also loved the Little House on the Prairie series. And I remember reading anything by Beverly Cleary. When I hit the teen year, of course I was into all those books by Judy Blume.

  6. Just a few hours away from our trip! You’re probably at home enjoying yourself while I’m supposed to be working. 🙂

    I absolutely loved Nancy Drew as a child. We did not have a television during much of my childhood and I read voraciously (Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Little House on the Prairie, biographies on important historical figures, etc.) I’d only been able to read a few of the stories about Nancy, George and Bess when my family moved to a new town when I was about 9. I hit the jackpot of a life time when I discovered that our library had almost EVERY NANCY DREW BOOK! Life is good.

    *Another wise tip that I think came from Nancy – a bobby pin from your hair can get you out of trouble when locked in a closet!

  7. I read nacy Drew of course and the Hardy Boys. i also like the Bobsey Twins and The happy Holisters. I read Cherry Ames the nurse and so many others. My ultimate favorite was Bambi. I found a copy at a garage sale and it sits proudle on my shelf.

  8. I collected the set (up to #46 I think) when I was growing up. I would read one a day. Then two of my girls read them. They are timeless.

    The other book I remember reading was during the summer of 8th grade. I would sit outside on the patio reading Gone With the Wind.

    For years I would read many books during the summer however now I devote more of my time to my knitting. I keep thinking about audio books but I am a visual person and I am not sure if I would enjoy them as much as actually reading them. I’ll have to try it though.

  9. Thanks for the memories. (insert melody here) I grew up on Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys , and Trixie Belden, just to name a few. Growing up in the ’60’s meant summers biking to the library, the pool, and the park. No child was parked in front of the TV or a video game. Summers were spent outdoors or at camp.
    My recent summer reading memories include the adventures of Harry Potter and company. My son and I reread the books prior to the new releases. We’ve been doing this the last 3 summers. As you can imagine the copies are pretty tattered and now need to be replaced. We haven’t started our summer ritual yet because the boy is growing up (16) and has so many other interests. I think that we will cheat a little and start with book 5. I’m sure I’m not alone in counting down to July 21st! I just can’t seem yo accept that this will be the last book! Why do all good this end so quickly? What would Nancy say?!

  10. Great post! I didn’t know there was a history about the woman who created Nancy. I’m going to have to read that! Thanks 🙂
    I loved reading Nancy Drew, the happy Hollisters and the Hardy boys. I hope to get Corra hooked on them too. Now that she is 8!
    I am super excited about the new movie out.

  11. I have that Nancy Drew biography on my night stand and i have been looking forward to reading it. I am inspired to move it to the top of my queue.

    Summer reading for me? As a kid I loved reading about another spunky, independent girl…Anastasia Krupnik. I read the whole series by Lois Lowry in one summer. Isn’t that the best? When you just become consumed and you have to read one book after another.

  12. Summers were always the time when I would devour as many boosk as possible. I do not remember my age, but I remember realizing that I knew how to read a book–it must have been the summer after kindergarden. I can remember the sense of pleasure coursing through my body as I looked at my bookshelf and realized I could read every one of those books.

  13. I read the Rehak book last year and enjoyed it. There is a fiction mystery series that sort of focuses on different detectives in each book. The Nancy Drew one is Not a Girl Detective by Susan Kandel. I really like her first book too, I Dreamed I married Perry Mason.

  14. I read Nancy during the summer too, and collect the Applewood reprints of the first editions. Chris gives them to me for Christmas or my birthday, and I think they have reprinted up through #21 so far. I still re-read them during the summer. 🙂 Do you have the little gift book “Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life?” It has a cute little magnifying glass attached to the ribbon bookmark.

    Summer reading is just the best! I’m reading a Daisy Dalrymple mystery right now (author: Carola Dunn) but really anything read during the summer takes on a special aura that stays with you.

    Do you like the knitting mysteries by Maggie Sefton?

  15. sandy Maniscalco

    June 19, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    I too read Nancy Drew. But Cherry Ames, nurse extrordinaire was my favorite and because of her I became a nurse and have been since 1964. I also love to read mysteries, esp. involving knitting or quilting. Have a great day. sandy

  16. I also read Nancy Drew. I liked the Choose Your Own Adventure books as well, and of course, Judy Blume!

    I have to stop over here more often – I love your blog!

  17. I loved Nancy Drew. I can’t wait to see the movie. I can remember being thrilled to start reading in the summer when school was out. I always joined the library’s summer reading program to try and read the most books that summer in my age group.
    Sweet Valley Twins and eventually Sweet Valley High were my favorites.

  18. Hi Amy!! Oh Summer reading is the best!! I loved Nancy Drew too and it seems like she was very popular! I also read Laura Ingalls Wilder and Judy Blume! I even had the opportunity to work in a library through high school and college so I got to reread all my childhood favorites again, and recommend them to a whole new audience! To this day, I still love mysteries! Happy reading!

  19. Hi Sis…writing from M&D’s computer…can’t have a summer reading list without Anne of Green Gables! I still read those every year. Now I’ve added the Mitford books to my must-read list.

  20. It was fun to read through everyone’s comments about their favorite mystery books to read as a child and kept hoping to see someone mention my favorites. Before Carolyn Keene wrote Nancy Drew there was a series called Dana Girl Mysteries about two sisters who were in prep school and they drove a blue roadster (surprise!). I read those over and over and OVER! I always loved them more than Nancy Drew for some reason – they seemed to be more sophistocated. I still read them and continue to collect the few volumes that I don’t have in my collection. I hope that my own children will want to read them but…. it seems they don’t crave the reading like I did when I was a kid. Summer time reading was the very best – one summer I read Roots and wish I had that luxury of time today – some day I will again. 🙂

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